I was relieved to learn that it takes an average of five to eight attempts to get out of an abusive relationship—my experience was not unique. My first attempt to leave was met with extreme force. We were living in Arizona at the time. I was packing a suitcase when my ex grabbed me, dragged me across the bathroom vanity and threw me on the bathroom floor. He slammed the back of my head on the tile and then started choking me. I struggled and flailed around until I was able to free myself from his grip, but each time I did, he knocked me back down. At one point he knocked me on my stomach and told me to stay down. Every time I made an attempt to move, he kicked me in the stomach. I lay there crying and horrified for I don’t know how long. I waited for an opportunity to escape out the door. It finally came and I raced to our neighbor’s house to get help. I was shocked and dazed when our neighbor opened the door, but I refused to call the police and they eventually asked me to leave. So I went back home.

My ex would terrorize me with threats on my life, hint at paying someone to kill me, and lift his fist to me while I cowered in fear. He didn’t always follow through with the punch. He also used crazy-making techniques to distort my view of reality. He would deny the abuse and tell me I was losing my mind and had imagined it. He kept me isolated so I was not able to confirm the true reality of the situation, and I began to question myself. One of the most damaging things he told me was that everyone hated me including my relatives, and I should save everyone the misery of having to deal with me by committing suicide. He drained my bank account, created credit problems, damaged my possessions (including putting sugar in my gas tank), and held my possessions hostage.

Given all of the obstacles I was up against, it was not easy to leave. In addition, my ex’s abuse would escalate when I tried to leave, and I would be in even more fear of my life. There was actually some comfort in staying. At least I didn’t have to watch my back constantly like I did when I left. Also, he always would find me when I would leave. I felt I would never be able to get away from him alive.

Hope finally came after he and I moved to Portland, and a bad episode led me to the Domestic Violence Division of the Portland Police Bureau. I was assigned a Bradley Angle advocate who accompanied me to get a restraining order and helped me get into a shelter until I could move into a new apartment. My advocate was very supportive and also accompanied me to a hearing where I had to testify against my ex. Finally, after 12 years someone put their foot down and protected me. I was finally free and my ex was held accountable.

It took time for me to heal, but Bradley Angle was there for me with a support group where I was able to talk about my experiences. My strength and confidence grew, and I realized that it was not my fault. I was not the terrible person my ex had led me to believe I was.

It’s time to shed light on this problem and place the blame where it belongs—on the abusers and not the abused. Abusers should not be allowed to hide in the wings while the abused are placed center stage and scrutinized. I hope my story will give those in similar situations hope and courage to end the violence. Please, do what you can to end the violence.